Instead of buying at Wal-Mart on the storied busiest shopping day of the year, Billy Moffett, 39, picked up a bullhorn outside the store in Raymore, Mo.
“Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart, you’re no good,” the resident chanted. “Treat your workers like you should!”
Moffet, who is not a Wal-Mart employee but instead is a union worker with AT&T, marched as part of Black Friday protests that were organized to be held during the Thanksgiving holiday at 1,600 Wal-Mart stores in 49 states. Locally, protesters were also scheduled to march outside the Wal-Mart in Gladstone.
“We’re asking them to pay their workers $15 an hour,” Moffett said. “We believe that will push them (the workers) above the poverty line.”
From Bentonville, Ark., Wal-Mart corporate spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan countered that the Black Friday protests did not represent the overall sentiments of its workers.
“What we’re seeing, and what we’ve seen in past years, is that Wal-Mart associates are not participating in these protests. These are paid union organizers,” Buchanan said. “Unfortunately, they are misleading what is actually happening today. Perception is not often reality when it comes to unions.”
Wal-Mart employs about 1.4 million workers, which is about 10 percent of the nation’s retail workforce. In June 2013, a report prepared by the Democratic staff of the U.S. House Committee on Education & the Workforce argued in its summary: “Low wages not only harm workers and their families — they cost taxpayers. When low wages leave Wal-Mart workers unable to afford the necessities of life, taxpayers pick up the tab.”
The report estimated that the 300 employees of a single Wal-Mart Supercenter in Wisconsin used between $900,000 and $1.7 million of government aid.
The Black Friday protests have been held annually since the union-backed group Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) was organized in 2011.
“They can’t even get Wal-Mart associated to participate in their demonstrations. It’s all union workers,” Buchanan said.
The Black Friday protests come only days before another national demonstration is scheduled to be held by the nation’s fast-food workers. On Tuesday, the national organizing committee of the movement known as Fight for $15 voted to hold protests in many of the 150 cities in which fast-food workers have also been pushing for a $15 minimum wage as well as to form a union.
Workers in Kansas City will be part of the protests to be held Thursday. The exact location and time of the protests are expected to be announced either the night before or the morning of the demonstrations.
In early September, hundreds of workers, union members, clergy and social justice advocates sang and chanted outside fast-food restaurants as they called for wage increases and a union. Police that day arrested 52 workers for impeding traffic when workers participated in a peaceful noon “sit-down” outside a McDonald’s restaurant at 14th Street and Prospect Avenue.
That September protest was the sixth locally to have been held in the previous 18 months. It was the first at which arrests were made. About 500 arrests were reported nationwide in cities that included Detroit, New York, Chicago, Las Vegas and Little Rock, Ark.
The Fight for $15 movement is heavily supported and backed by other unions.
“It is estimated that 7 million workers have received raises since our movement began,” said Terrence Wise, a Kansas City fast-food worker. “We are changing the conscience of the country. We couldn’t be hotter than we are now.”